From the Field: Letha Grimes, Natural Resources Biologist
Letha Grimes grew up exploring nature. As a young angler, she loved fishing local farm ponds and the upper Potomac River. The outdoor experiences of her childhood inspired Grimes to take an entry level job as a conservation technician at the Albert Powell Trout Hatchery in Hagerstown. At this Maryland Department of Natural Resources facility, which hatches more than 600,000 trout eggs every year, Grimes engaged in fisheries training, including an independent four-year project.
This year, Grimes is celebrating her 35th anniversary of working for DNR. Her roles with the department have changed through the years, from 17 years working with naturally reproducing striped bass in the Liberty and Piney Run reservoirs to her current responsibilities providing angler education to young people and adults.
Grimes administers the department’s Backyard Fishing program, which promotes youth fishing by teaching techniques and holding fishing events. She also provides outdoor education via the Frederick County Envirothon, an environmental education competition for high school students, and by teaching stream ecology classes for the Master Naturalist program.
This year, Grimes is excited to be launching the First Catch Fish Trailer in Maryland. This mobile visitor center will provide hands-on opportunities for new anglers and underrepresented communities to learn basic fishing skills and conservation ethics.
Her favorite part of the job is simple but meaningful. “The experience of assisting a child and watching them reel in their first fish has been the most rewarding part of my job,” she says.
In 1995, Grimes was a founding member of one of the department’s most successful programs: Maryland’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) Program. “The program is still going strong today,” she says. “We provide outdoor skill workshops to more than 150 women each year.” Grimes participates in and leads these workshops, which take place across Maryland.
To those looking to join Letha in the fisheries and outdoor education fields, she advises seizing the opportunity an entry level job presents to get started in the field. “Jobs in this field are not plentiful because we all love our jobs and rarely leave,” she says.
Grimes suggests that those interested in natural resources careers keep a long-term view in mind. Be open to jobs outside your goals as when starting out, she advises. You may be surprised by what you learn!
“As long as you love what you do, it won’t feel like a job.”
Annalise Kenney is the department’s Publications and Design Manager in the Office of Communications. Article appears in Vol. 25, No. 3 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine.